How did Red Sox wind up signing Venezuelan shortstop prospect Marvin Alcantara? Eddie Romero explains

According to Baseball America, the Red Sox have signed 16 international free agents since the 2022 signing window opened last Saturday.

Among the 16 prospects signed thus far, Dominican shortstops Fraymi de Leon and Freili Encarnacion and Venezuelan catcher Johanfran Garcia stick out as the headliners since they received attention from either Baseball America or MLB Pipeline.

With that being said, though, there may be another shortstop the Red Sox signed out of Venezuela who is worthy of some recognition as well. His name? Marvin Alcantara.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero identified Alcantara as someone that was not necessarily getting a ton of attention from other teams, but was still doing some eye-opening things on the field.

More specifically, it was the team’s Venezuelan area scout — Alex Requena — who made the case for Boston to sign Alcantara. Requena, per Romero, saw that Alcantara was a confident infielder who made solid contact at the plate, was an average runner on the base paths, and had the ability to play shortstop and second base if needed.

“Just pounding the table for him,” Romero said of Requena’s interest in Alcantara when speaking with Jennings. “He’s one of these guys that the crosscheck group really didn’t get to see much, but he made it to signing day and our area scout was just like, ‘You need to sign this guy!’”

And so the Red Sox did sign Alcantara for a reported $30,000, according to MLB.com. The right-handed hitter is one of eight prospects Boston has added out of Venezuela so far this winter.

As noted by Jennings, however, the $30,000 Alcantara has reportedly signed for represents less than 0.6 percent of the $5,179,700 in signing bonus pool space the Sox have to work with this year. The signing period opened on January 15 and does not close until mid-December.

“The signing class isn’t made on January 15,” said Romero. “The signing class is really made throughout the year when you have some more of these flexible signings. … We hammer the passed over and the (overlooked players) just as much as we do trying to make sure we’re on top of the premium, priority players in each class.”

The Red Sox will hope the modest price they paid for Alcantara’s services will prove to be even more of a bargain in the long run. In the interim, the 17-year-old is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season — and his professional career — in the Dominican Summer League.

(Picture of Eddie Romero: Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Red Sox expected to sign pair of Dominican shortstops when international signing period opens this weekend

When the 2021-2022 international signing period opens this weekend, the Red Sox are expected to add some young and intriguing infield depth to their farm system.

According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, Boston is in line to sign a pair of shortstops from the Dominican Republic in Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion beginning on January 15.

De Leon, who turned 17 in September, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 32 overall prospect and one of the best defensive shortstops in this year’s international signing class.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 157 pounds, De Leon is a natural switch hitter who still has room to grow physically when it comes to adding strength. Per his Baseball America scouting report, De Leon is “a quick-twitch athlete who is light on his feet with smooth actions and good body control at shortstop. [He] has soft hands, a strong arm and good instincts, reading the ball well off the bat with a good internal clock for his age.”

MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has De Leon penciled in as their 50th-ranked international prospect, noting that the teen is “already a fringe-to-average runner” who possesses “solid defensive actions and a decent arm that should keep him” at shortstop.

Turning to Encarnacion now, the 16-year-old infielder comes in as Baseball America’s No. 37 international prospect. Like De Leon, Encarnacion hails from Santo Domingo but is listed at a taller 6-goot-2 and 175 pounds.

Per Badler, Encarnacion “is strong for his age” and “an offensive-minded infielder who drives the ball with impact for extra-base and over-the-fence juice.

“He’s not a dead pull hitter either, with a sound approach for his age and the ability to hit to all fields,” adds Badler. “Encarnacion has trained as a shortstop, though he might end up sliding over to third base.”

Encarnacion, who actually turns 17 in a little over two weeks, hits from the right side of the plate. He is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in this year’s signing class and is described as a special individual with a great demeanor who is also consistent, confident, and one of the top hitters on the international market.

“He has shown the ability to spray the ball across the outfield, and has a knack for squaring up the ball and driving it up the middle,” Encarnacion’s MLB Pipeline scouting report reads. “On defense, he shows good hands, a plus arm potential and will have a chance to stay at shortstop. He could still make the switch to third base if he outgrows the position.” 

At the moment, it’s unclear how much either De Leon or Encarnacion will sign with the Red Sox for. However, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that Boston will have approximately $5,179,700 to work with when it comes to their bonus signing pool.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox power-hitting prospect Blaze Jordan could be ready to break out in 2022

Is Red Sox prospect Blaze Jordan primed to break out in 2022? The experts at MLB.com seem to think so.

Earlier this week, MLB Pipeline published an article in which three writers — William Boor, Jim Callis, and Sam Dykstra — picked one potential breakout candidate from each team’s farm system.

For the Red Sox, that turned out to be Jordan, the club’s third-round selection in the 2020 amateur draft who just completed his first full season as a pro in 2021.

After breaking minor-league spring training with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox, Jordan got his 2021 campaign off to a blazing start.

The right-handed hitting corner infielder slashed a blistering .362/.408/.667 (170 wRC+) to go along with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 19 RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and 13 strikeouts over 19 games (76 plate appearances) in the FCL before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem in early August.

It took quite a while for Jordan to debut for Salem, but the then-18-year-old made his first appearance for the Red Sox on Aug. 19. One of the youngest position players at the Low-A level, he proceeded to slash .250/.289/.444 (95 wRC+) one double, two homers, seven RBIs, seven runs scored, two walks, and eight strikeouts across nine games spanning 38 plate appearances. A trip to the injured list prematurely ended his season in early September.

Defensively, Jordan logged 41 innings at first base and 146 2/3 innings at third base between the complex league and Low-A last year. The native Mississippian committed a total of two errors at the hot corner but did not make any miscues at first base.

Jordan, who turned 19 last month, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among position players in the organization.

In November, Baseball America identified Jordan as the best power hitter in the Sox’ system, citing that the 6-foot-2, 220 pounder’s “plus-plus [70-grade] power is a show-stopper. He hits towering home runs to all fields and gets to his power even with a disconnect in his upper and lower halves that should get smoothed out over time. Though he lacks any real semblance of an approach, he sees the ball well, allowing him to remain more controlled in the batter’s box than might be expected.”  

Since he reclassified in high school to graduate a year early and enter the draft sooner than expected, Jordan is still relatively young for a prospect who is entering his third year of pro ball. Along those same lines, the one-time Mississippi State commit is projected by SoxProspects.com to open the 2022 season where he left off in September: Salem.

(Picture of Blaze Jordan: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox’ Nathan Hickey quickly emerging as one of top catching prospects in Boston’s farm system

The Red Sox have an extensive history when it comes to drafting amateur prospects out of the University of Florida.

Dating back to the 2012 draft, the Sox have selected 12 players from Florida. Of that group of Gators, four (Austin Maddox, Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, and Shaun Anderson) went on to make it to the major-leagues.

Most recently, Boston selected Florida outfielder Jud Fabian and Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with its second- and fifth-round picks in last summer’s draft, respectively.

While Fabian ultimately made the decision to return to Gainesville for his senior season, Hickey wound up signing with the Red Sox for an over-slot deal of $1 million last July.

Upon inking his first professional contract, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville — reported to Fort Myers to begin his debut season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox.

Across eight games in the FCL, the left-handed hitting backstop slashed .250/.429/.350 (124 wRC+) to go along with two doubles, one RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and eight strikeouts over 28 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem on August 27.

Hickey appeared in two games on Aug. 27 and 28, but was placed on the temporary inactive list on September 5. After a near-two-week hiatus, the 22-year-old returned to the field and made his final appearance of the season for Salem on Sept. 17. All told, he went 1-for-8 at the plate in his first exposure to the Low-A level.

Shortly after the conclusion of the minor-league season, it was revealed that Hickey’s father, Mark, passed away in early October.

On the heels of what was presumably an emotional 2021, Hickey comes into 2022 regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Hickey’s best carrying tool is his raw power. He also utilizes “a mature approach at the plate” that could help him “develop into a solid hitter, though his swing can get long and too uphill at times.”

That being said, Hickey also comes with some questions in regards to his defensive abilities behind the plate. The 6-foot, 210 pounder’s “receiving and blocking will have to improve significantly, and his solid arm strength plays down and resulted in 39 steals in 41 attempts against him during the spring.”

On that note, Hickey does have experience at other positions besides catcher. He saw time at both corner infield positions with the Gators in the spring before catching a total of five games between the FCL and Low-A over the summer.

Whether Hickey — who does not turn 23 until November — is able to stick at catcher has yet to be determined. He does however have an appealing offensive profile, and that should only help him in the long run.

Going off of SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Hickey is slated to begin the 2022 campaign where he left off in 2021: with Salem. He will likely have a chance to earn a midseason promotion to High-A Greenville depending on the kind of start he gets off to.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Bryan Green/Flickr)

 

MLB Pipeline’s latest 2021 mock draft has Red Sox selecting Louisville catcher Henry Davis with top pick

In his latest mock draft for MLB Pipeline, MLB.com’s Jim Callis has the Red Sox selecting University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 first-year player draft, which begins in just over six weeks.

Prior to projecting prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer to go to the Pirates at No. 1, Vanderbilt right-hander Jack Leiter to fall to the Rangers at No. 2, and high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar to go to the Tigers at No. 3, Callis did note that “who will go where in the first round remains quite fluid” as “there aren’t 29 consensus first-round talents for 29 first-round picks.”

The Red Sox will be making a top-five pick in this summer’s draft for just the third time in franchise history and for the first time since 1967, when they selected right-hander Mike Garman third overall.

When it came time for the Sox to make their first selection in this latest mock draft, Callis had them take the first catcher off the board in Davis as opposed to someone like Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker or Winder-Barrow High School’s Brady House.

“The Red Sox feel like the absolute floor for Leiter, who probably won’t get to them,” Callis wrote on Wednesday. “Davis is the best college position player available, the high school shortstops also would be attractive and there are rumblings Boston could cut a deal with a lesser college bat to save money to spend big later.”

Davis, 21, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the fifth-ranked prospect in this year’s draft class, which is tops among both catchers and college position players.

While Louisville was eliminated from the ACC tournament on Thursday, Davis’ 2021 season with the Cardinals has been nothing to scoff at.

Coming into play on Thursday, the third-year sophomore was slashing an absurd .367/.484/.655 to go along with 14 home runs, 46 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 31 walks, and 23 strikeouts over 46 games played and 221 plate appearances. He also threw out 13 of the 28 baserunners who have attempted to steal against him.

Davis, who spent the summer of 2019 playing for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. The right-handed hitter’s Baseball America scouting report goes as follows:

“Davis was one of the hardest-throwing catchers in the 2018 draft class as a high schooler, with a 70-grade cannon for an arm, but questions about his offensive game allowed him to make it to campus at Louisville. He acquitted himself well as a freshman, hitting .280/.345/.386 with 13 walks and 18 strikeouts and was off to an even better start in 2020. Through 14 games Davis hit as many home runs (three) as he did through 45 games during his freshman season. If scouts continue to feel comfortable with Davis’ bat during the 2021 season he could find himself going on the first day of the draft, as he controls the zone well, brings some pop to the pull-side and has gotten more fluid in his actions at the plate.

“Defensively, Davis’ arm jumps off the page, and he’s an athletic and efficient thrower, though he struggled with his blocking initially. Davis had seven passed balls in 2019 and six in 2020, though coaches praise his work ethic and believe he’s improved in that area of his game. MLB teams love athletic collegiate catchers with a track record of hitting and as a .303/.381/.463 career hitter with one explosive tool in his arm strength, he’ll get plenty of attention [this] spring.”

A native of Bedford, N.Y. and a product of Fox Lane High School, Davis spent part of this past offseason catching bullpens for Red Sox relievers Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino. Barnes, who hails from Connecticut, recently told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that the young backstop “has an absolute cannon.”

The Red Sox taking Davis with their top pick come July 11 would be somewhat of a rare occurrence considering the fact that the club has selected just four catchers — with Blake Swihart being the latest — in the first round of the amateur draft since its inception in 1965.

Whoever Boston selects at No. 4 this summer, one thing is for certain: the fourth overall choice comes with a recommended value of $6.664 million. Put another way, the Sox could spend up to that dollar figure to sign whoever they take there.

That being said, there remains a possibility that the Red Sox could — as Callis put it — “cut a deal with a lesser college bat to save money to spend big later.”

The very same thing happened last June when Boston selected prep infielder Nick Yorke in the first round and later signed him to a below-slot deal. This allowed the club to invest more in third-round pick Blaze Jordan, another high schooler, and sign him to an above-slot deal.

(Picture of Henry Davis: Louisville Athletics)

Brady to Boston? MLB Pipeline’s latest 2021 mock draft has Red Sox selecting prep shortstop Brady House with No. 4 overall pick

In his latest mock draft for MLB Pipeline, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has the Red Sox selecting Winder-Barrow High School (Ga.) shortstop Brady House with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 first-year player draft, which begins in just over seven weeks.

With shortstops Marcelo Mayer — who has been linked to the Red Sox in past mocks — and Jordan Lawlar going to the Pirates and Rangers at picks No. 1 and 2 and Louisville catcher Henry Davis going to the Tigers at No. 3, Mayo decided against having the Sox select either one of Vanderbilt right-handers Jack Leiter or Kumar Rocker and instead had them take another high school infielder in House.

“He might be able to stick at shortstop and even if he can’t, adjustments he’s made at the plate have allowed him to show off his immense raw power more consistently,” Mayo wrote of the young shortstop on Wednesday.

In an earlier mock draft from late April, Mayo projected Boston to take Mayer at No. 4, while House fell to the Orioles at No. 5. But he also noted then that House “had entered last summer as the front-runner top pick, had an up-and-down showing, but righted the ship this spring, with his name starting to pop up at least as high as right above this pick.”

Though this is just pure speculation, it would appear that there is now more evidence connecting the Red Sox to House given how Mayo changed things up in his latest mock.

House, who turns 18 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the sixth-ranked prospect in this summer’s draft class, which is six spots higher than he was at this point in April.

While his high school career came to a close earlier this month, the Georgia native finished his senior season by compiling a .549/.675/.967 slash line to go along with eight home runs, 20 RBI, and 21 stolen bases over 31 games played for the Bulldoggs, per MaxPreps.

At the moment, House is committed to play college baseball at the University of Tennessee, though it seems unlikely he would go the college route if he is indeed selected in the early stages of the first round.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, the right-handed hitter’s MLB Pipeline scouting report goes as follows:

“At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds with plenty of strength and bat speed, House looks the part of a power hitter and has well-above-average raw pop to all fields. But after showing the ability to crush good velocity and handle quality breaking balls in past years on the showcase circuit, he got excessively aggressive and his right-handed stroke got longer and slower. Since learning what happens when he sells out for home runs, he has made adjustments, shortened his swing and gotten back to doing damage. 

“An average runner, House likely will move to third base in pro ball but may be athletic enough to stay at shortstop. The Tennessee recruit should be at least a solid defender at the hot corner and possesses a plus arm that can pump fastballs up to 96 mph off the mound. Scouts compare him to a more athletic version of Joey Gallo or 2018 Cardinals first-rounder Nolan Gorman.”

The assigned slot value for the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft is approximately $6.664 million, the same as it was in 2020.

Put another way, the Red Sox will have $6.664 million to spend in regards to signing whoever they take at No. 4 without incurring any sort of penalty.

(Picture of Brady House: Doug Bower)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Examining Red Sox infield prospect Hudson Potts’ big-league potential

Hudson Potts’ first offseason as a member of the Red Sox organization has been a busy one to say the least.

Back in November, the 22-year-old was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. That, in turn, led to Potts receiving his first invite from the Sox — and third invite overall — to big-league spring training.

The Texas native was originally acquired by the Red Sox along with outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario last August in a trade that sent veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres.

At that time, Potts was regarded by MLB Pipeline as San Diego’s No. 16 prospect, and with the minor-league season having been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was spending time at the club’s alternate training site at the University of San Diego.

He spent the rest of the year at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Even with no real in-game action in 2020, the former 2016 first-round draft pick was less than a full year removed from his age-20 season with Double-A Amarillo of the Texas League in which he slashed a modest .227/.290/.406 to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI across 107 games in 2019.

Those numbers — as well as a strikeout rate of 28.6% and a walk rate of 7.1% — might not jump off the page, but it is important to remember that Potts was doing this at a fairly young age for the level he was playing at. FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens noted as much when writing about Potts and other position player prospects on Tuesday.

“It’s so hard to play in Double-A at 20 years old,” Clemens wrote. “Potts wasn’t good, but he was able to tread water despite being three to four years young for the level, which is often a better sign than hitting well at an age-appropriate level. That said, don’t sleep on his 2018, when he was also quite young for Hi-A and put together a fearsome power season.”

In 2018 with High-A Lake Elsinore of the California League, the right-handed hitter posted a .281/.350/.498 clip in addition to clubbing 17 homers and driving in 58 runs over 106 games (453 plate appearances).

One of the things that has held Potts back, if you want to say that, to this point has been his inability to make contact on a consistent basis. Another dimension of his game that is shrouded in uncertainty pertains to his primary defensive position.

Both of those aspects could hinder the 6-foot-3, 220 lb. infielder’s long-term potential as a major-league-caliber player, according to Clemens.

Warning Signs: The big one is contact — that’s not the kind of thing you can paper over with other skills,” Clemens wrote of Potts. “He’ll also need to find a defensive home; he looks like a corner guy, though San Diego experimented with a Mike Moustakas-esque second base assignment before trading him. Corner-only sluggers with contact issues aren’t exactly in short supply, so that’s the worry here.”

In regards to the 20-80 scouting scale, FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen has Potts’ hit tool at 30 in terms of present value and 35 in terms of future value, which ranks ninth and 19th among Red Sox position player prospects, respectively.

“If [Potts’ hit tool turns out lower than 40 FV], it might make his bat unplayable” due to all the swings-and-misses, Clemens wrote.

Despite those concerns, Clemens still seems optimistic about Potts’ outlook, opining that “the combination of his power and age are simply more enticing than the whiffs are worrisome.”

Currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s 19th-ranked prospect, Potts is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season — whenever it starts — with Double-A Portland and could seemingly see playing time at every infield position besides shortstop.

The Red Sox will host their first full squad spring training workout in Fort Myers this coming Monday, so that could be a good time to get our first glance at Potts since last year’s fall instructional league. Stay tuned for that.

(Picture of Hudson Potts: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstillsmugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Triston Casas ranked No. 2 first-base prospect in baseball by MLB.com

While the Red Sox continue to build up their farm system under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, one of the club’s most highly-touted minor-leaguers was recently ranked by MLB.com as one of the best first base prospects in baseball

His name? Triston Casas.

According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Casas is the No. 2 first base prospect in the game behind only the White Sox’ Andrew Vaughn, who’s more than a full year older than him, headed into the 2021 season.

Among the top-10 first base prospects Mayo listed — Vaughn, Casas, Aaron Sabato (MIN), Seth Beer (ARI), Lewin Diaz (MIA), Michael Toglia (COL), Bobby Bradley (CLE), Nick Pratto (KC), Pavin Smith (ARI), Mason Martin (PIT) — Casas has one of the best power and arm strength tools.

“The 6-foot-5 Casas has the perfect combination of strength, size, bat speed and leverage for plus power, with the advanced approach to get to it consistently,” Mayo wrote of the 21-year-old’s slugging abilities.

Last we saw Casas in any organized minor-league action, the 2018 first-round draft pick clubbed 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBI in 120 games and 500 plate appearances between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem in 2019. He also posted a solid .256/.350/.480 slash line en route to being named an organizational All-Star.

As for what he is capable of doing defensively, Mayo notes that Casas pitched and played third base as an amateur at American Heritage High School in South Florida, which therefore “allows him to do more with his arm” while playing first base.

Per FanGraphs, Casas logged 834 2/3 total innings at first base with Greenville and Salem in ’19 as opposed to just 67 innings at the hot corner in Greenville alone.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Casas, like so many other prospects, were forced to continue their development in an unfamiliar setting.

The Red Sox added the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder to their player pool in late August, allowing him to participate at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket for the remainder of the major-league season.

While in Pawtucket for just over a month, Casas again showed off his power at the plate as well as the rest of his skillset. Many came away impressed with what he did, including Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon.

Casas is very intriguing to me,” McMillon said when speaking with reporters back in October. “Can play both corner positions. I think he’s probably going to settle in at first base. His discipline at the plate is incredible. His approach was a little bit different than what you might see with some of the guys today. He spread out, he choked up. Wasn’t afraid to hit the ball the other way. He definitely has an idea at the plate. I really like how intelligent he was at the plate. He was a guy who really benefitted from coming up, facing Triple-A/Four-A type pitching. He held his own, had very good at-bats, walked a lot. Defense, I think he’s going to be solid. I think we’ve got a good one with Triston.”

When watching Casas go to work at the plate, you will likely notice that he takes a unique approach to doing things, especially with two strikes in the count, as McMillon alluded to in the above quote.

That would be the case because as a left-handed hitter, Casas tries to somewhat take after Cincinnati Reds star and fellow first baseman Joey Votto.

“Growing up, I loved watching Joey Votto,” Casas said via Zoom this past September. “I love his approach, I love his swing, I love the way he approaches the game, and the way he he takes his at-bats are second to none. The stats speak for themselves. He was one of the best hitters of the 2010s, and that’s when I was growing up watching baseball. Being a left-handed first baseman, Joey Votto’s not a bad guy to emulate. I don’t really try to copy everything that he does, but the other day I hit a home run in a sim game and looking back on it, I was like, ‘Wow, I actually do look like Joey Votto.’ So, growing up I really liked watching him play

“The choke-up on the bat and the two-strike approach, it was just something that I watched him do and I tried it out for myself and I liked the results that I was getting,” he added. “I liked the way it felt in the box. I liked the way I would compete when I did formulate a good two-strike approach, and I’m looking to keep hearing that because I’m feeling really comfortable right now.”

Following the conclusion of alternate training site workouts, Casas was one of about 63 minor-leaguers who were invited to take part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers.

There, per SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, the Florida native was arguably the best infielder at camp and the most impressive position player behind only outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez.

Currently regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s top-ranked prospect, the 6-foot-5, 250 lber is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

That said, it seems possible that the Sox would want to include Casas and some of their other top prospects in major-league spring training for MLB/Triple-A players starting next month with minor-league camp for Class-A/Double-A players being pushed back until later in the spring.

With that scenario in mind, prospects such as Casas and Jeter Downs, among others, could potentially start the year at Triple-A Worcester. @RedSoxStats was one of the first to put that possibility out there.

That scenario remains just a mere possibility at this point, though, and as most things have gone regarding minor-league baseball recently, we will have to wait and see how it all transpires before determining which player will go where.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran heating up in Puerto Rico

This offseason, Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran has been playing for Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

The 24-year-old got off to a slow start with his new team, accruing just three hits through his first 37 plate appearances, but has since picked things up.

Over the course of a three-game series against RA12 over the weekend, Duran went 7-for-13 (.538) at the plate with four RBI and five runs scored, raising his line on the season to a modest .250/.429/.278 through 11 games played. He also leads Caguas in stolen bases with six on the year thus far getting without getting caught.

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 1 outfield prospect and No. 8 overall prospect, Duran is one of the fastest players in the Sox’ system.

FanGraphs grades the California native’s speed tool at a 70 out of 80, which trails only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez for the best mark among Red Sox prospects.

In addition to his speed, Duran, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 187 lbs., made some adjustment to his swing last offseason and hit the ball further at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer as a result of said adjustments.

Portland Sea Dogs hitting coach Lance Zawadzki, among others, contributed to Duran’s swing evolution.

(For more on Zawadzki, check out this story from The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey)

“Working on my swing with Lance everyday here, Lance Zawadzki, and I worked with Doug Latta a little bit,” the Long Beach State product said back in August. “Just my swing path and cleaning things up, making things much simpler than they used to be, and just having a simple approach. I kind of owe it to those guys because I come here everyday and I grind it out with Lance everyday. Every day’s a struggle to find your swing. You can go home, not play baseball for a day, and it feels like you haven’t swung in two weeks.”

Though he is not yet on Boston’s 40-man roster, Duran very well could make his major-league debut at some point in 2021 given how close he already is.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom seemed impressed with what the former seventh-round draft pick did in 2020 when speaking with reporters last month.

“He had a tremendous 2020,” Bloom said of Duran. “He made strides hitting-wise and physically, didn’t lose any of his speed. He just had a really good year. I think for all players who didn’t play at the major league level, and even for some of those who did — because we had a shorter season — it’s tougher to feel confident in exactly what you know about them. He came into the year as someone who had spent some time in Double-A, but not with particularly distinguished performance, and then you see him put the year together that he had, and we have to try to figure out what that all means.”

For now, expect Duran to begin the 2021 campaign with Triple-A Worcester, though he will likely get plenty of time to shine once spring training begins in February.